Friday Favorite: Adult Coloring Books

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I’m a doodler. Look at my work notebooks and my paper planner and you’ll see squiggles, boxes, and flowers in the margins. My tattoo is of a swirl design I have been doodling since high school; that doodle I used to draw as a teenager on friends' jeans and jackets with fabric markers and they would sometimes pay me for the work. Doodling, like writing longhand, helps me listen, focus, and remember. So when I broke my right arm twice last year and couldn’t write or doodle, I felt like a fish out of water.

I began coloring in Emerson’s coloring books with her last year as a form of physical therapy; at first it was to get better control of my left hand. Later in the year, it was to regain the strength and dexterity of my right hand. Soon I was back to being able to doodle again in some capacity, and it made me realize how important it is in my life for calming my mind and focusing. One frustrating day at work, I did my swirly doodle all over my office dry erase board. I bought a box of Crayola markers and during conference calls went from ink-drawn squiggles to filling a piece of blank white paper with doodles, squares, mazes, and more. Sick of my gloomy mud-brown windowless office, I began taping these doodles up on the wall my desk faces to have some color in my day.

PicMonkey Collage

The first time I did The Artist’s Way, I bought myself a pack of 26 markers and one of those velvet posters you can find in Target. I loved the meditation of coloring the pattern on that poster, and ended up using it to be a bookcover for my Artist’s Way journal. I don’t know why I let that habit lapse, but this year when wandering the aisles of A.C. Moore finding supplies for a Girl Scout project, I picked up a spiral-bound sketchbook, just like the one I used as my Artist’s Way journal. I started carrying it around with me to doodle in there instead of random pieces of paper, and I bought this pack of 100 markers from Amazon. Inspired by reader Judy’s Instagram photo, I bought this coloring book and this coloring book. While I like making my own doodles, sometimes I’m just too stressed to be creative and the process of choosing a marker, carefully staying within the lines, and seeing a pattern come to life brings me back to center.

When I get home from work, I am F R I E D. Either a hellacious Metro trip or fighting DC traffic after 8-10 hours of work makes me a pretty crappy parent. I give myself a moment to use the bathroom, brush my teeth, change into comfortable clothing and have a short moment alone. It’s not enough, I’m still wired, angry, stressed. So now what I do is come into the living room and invite Emerson to color with me. She grabs one of her coloring books or some blank paper (or I let her color in one of my books, which thrills her to no end) and we sit on the floor with the coffee table as our workspace. Sometimes we add construction paper, glue, pipecleaners, tape, or fabric to the mix. We color, I ask her about her day, she often draws what she experienced, and I am able to calm down while still spending quality time with my daughter. I notice that she’s more open with me when distracted by drawing a castle or bending pipe cleaners; I hear more about the social dynamics, more details about what she did in class, more honesty.  She now asks to color with me at other times during the week, it's our “Mommy and Me” time.

This past week I saw on Instagram that my friend Christen has also taken up grown-up coloring, she and her husband taking markers to mandalas as a form of meditation and mindfulness. She agreed that she finds the process of coloring so relaxing.

Why do we stop coloring as we grow up? Coloring is even better as an adult, as we know how to stay in the lines, we can afford the fancier markers or make the switch to pencils, pastels, or watercolors. There are plenty of coloring books created just for adults that have complicated, inspiring, thoughtful, or spiritual images, but there’s nothing wrong with just doodling with a #2 pencil in the margin of your spiral notebook. But if you feel a bit stressed, have a hard time meditating or slowing down, consider going Old School and picking up a coloring book. It’s a pretty fun way to relax and center!

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  1. I actually bought a coloring book last week because of this post. It was something I needed but I didn’t realize it until reading this! I like the meditative practice of coloring and doodling but I can be very self-critical when it comes to even simple things like doodling, so a grown-up coloring book was the perfect thing I needed to jump start my mind! Thanks for writing posts about your life and not just fashion. I think we all really appreciate seeing a human behind the blog.

  2. I’m another adult colorer! Whenever I feel stressed out, I either do zentangles or I color. I have more crayons and markers than the average 6-year-old and I’m not even a little bit ashamed about it 🙂 When I was in college and grad school, I had a couple of friends who loved to color as well, and we would color during study breaks – the best stress relief ever! I need to get some grown up coloring books now, too – the Disney princess ones I have right now are fine, but I’m ready for something a bit more sophisticated, haha!

  3. Omg this so totally made my day to read!!!!! Love that time you are spending coloring with your gal – just awesome! Those books make my day too. :-). So sorry I didn’t see this till now – been off the computer except FB & IG. As always, you’re wonderful.

      1. Hope you like the segment!

        Just checked amazon, they are currently out of both books! I’ll check one of my independent booksellers… the books really do look gorgeous!

  4. I also wanted to say that coloring can be a good way to learn. I am a very visual person and respond strongly to color. There is a series of science oriented coloring books. The cell biology and botany coloring books helped me get through and do well in those classes. There is something about coloring in the shapes and the words for parts that helps that information stick in my head. I tend to talk to myself anyway when I am learning, so I would naturally say the part over and over again to myself as I colored it in. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, coloring is a fun and effective way to learn.


  5. I’m not surprised that your coloring book is from Dover Publications. They have all sorts of fun and beautiful crafts and educational books for adults and kids. I am on their email mailing list. They are always having sales. I think it’s a good publishing company. They even regularly send me free clip art. Here is their url in case anyone wants inspiration to get their creative juices going.


  6. Oh I love to doodle and color! I recently bought a sketch book and an artist’s box of watercolors, pastels, and pencils. My drawings are simple, flowers and such but it relaxes me and makes me happy. Also, I downloaded a drawing app and coloring book app for my tablet (but I prefer paper).

  7. Second time in a week I had read about this, so went right out and bought a couple of those awesome Dover coloring books for my 13-year old daughter and I. We had a lovely, relaxing Friday evening coloring in goddesses and classic ballets. Thanks for the nudge!

  8. What a great idea! Keeping my mind calm is one of my biggest writing problems. This sounds like it could really help. Headed to Amazon now. Thanks, ma’am.

  9. Well you just got me to go online and order some adult coloring books and markers. LOL !! Sounds like an inexpensive and convenient way to reduce stress and I’m all for it. Besides, I’d like to color up some 60’s psychedelic print ! Thanks for the tip !

  10. I get a similar zen feeling from crochet and have recently discovered the art of crocheting mandalas. It’s so satisfying to work with the colors and interesting patterns. It’s almost addictive. Having something that you can share with your daughter while getting into a different head space after work is so wonderful! I get warm fuzzies hearing about it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  11. What a great idea! My kids love to draw and sketch (more than color) — they are a bit older than Emerson and like to create their own comic books. I always enjoy coloring with them (we have a book of Tiffany-stained glass inspired images, which are transparent, so the kids love to put them up in our windows when done). Going to try this with my boys — and as you say, a way to relax with them and also get them talking in a non-pressured way.

  12. I totally just ordered two colouring books and some new markers off Amazon. This is the relaxation project I didn’t know I was missing! Thank you, Allie – what a brilliant idea.

  13. Looking at the coloring books I realize I had many like this as a child. I’ve always loved art, taken classes in school and was just discussing an intro to drawing/survey class I had as the Smithsonian. It doesn’t sound as hoity-toity or snobby as it reads. It was great fun.It’s been years since I did anything remotely creative but last week visiting my parents I took my mom to one of those drink and paint establishments and we had a blast.

    thanks for post! I just ordered some markers and a coloring book for me and my mother. 🙂

  14. Have you read The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown? It’s next ony list to read, right after I go and buy those markers.

  15. Thanks for posting this today! I’m dealing with a lot of stress right now, and since coloring is one of my favorite things, this will help a lot.

  16. I too LOVE colouring! Loved it as a kid, doodled as a university student and adult. I used to babysit a lot and loved to sit and colour with the kids and as you’ve learned, they tell you so much more when you’re both relaxed and doing the same thing. I don’t babysit anymore but am thrilled to have recently gained a niece and nephew to colour with.

  17. What a coincidence – I read an article the other day on adult coloring books and remembered that my sister gave me a “fashion” coloring book with a set of colored pencils. I found them and started coloring in line drawings of designer bags and shoes! It was a lot of fun, and I did feel more relaxed when my pages were filled!

  18. I’m a papercrafter and stamper and the most relaxing thing I know is to color stamps. Hours can fly away when I sit down with my stamps and my markers. I love it!

  19. I’m going to track my old mosaic coloring book down today before the Bean’s dance class and bring it with me while I’m waiting for her. SO glad you wrote this and shared your remembered passion.

  20. It’s wonderful, creative and relaxing. I used to “prescribe” it to my patients when I was counseling. It’s not a surprise that with your eye for fashion, you enjoy coloring as well. xox

  21. I LOVE colouring and always have…loved it as a kid, and I was always secretly thrilled when kids I babysat liked colouring. As an adult I do the same thing that you’ve done – picked up colouring books for adults or just gone to town with blank paper and markers. Have you heard of Zentangle doodling? It kind of sounds like what you do already, so you might enjoy looking into it!

    Happy Friday!

    1. I have not heard of Zentangle, this is awesome. Thanks for sharing it Jamie! And I was totally like you too, I loved when kids I babysat would want to color. Emerson’s wasn’t quick to coloring, it’s something she just started enjoying this year and I am thrilled. It also makes for a fun way for us to do thank you cards and letters to her great grandma!

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